AN IRISH centre hall which has been solely used by the local Spanish community for the past decade will now be handed back to its Irish patrons.
After a 10-year hiatus, the Kennedy Hall at the London Irish Centre in Camden is set to reopen to the Irish community in 2015.
The space, which had been let to the Spanish Centre since 2004, will be turned into a new Irish hub for the community, boasting a new library and information centre.
It will also host the LIC Camden Wellbeing Services, in addition to providing an increased capacity for their existing lunch club and other elderly-focused activities.
Work is expected to begin shortly on the redevelopment, with the revamped hall due to open in the New Year David Barlow, Chief Executive of the LIC, said the organisation was “delighted” to unveil its new plans.
“To bring the Kennedy Hall back into community use has been a long-term aspiration for the Charity, and will enable us to significantly expand and enhance our current services,” he added.
The 300-metre square hall is also set to play host to a range of Irish cultural activities and other community services.
Its new library will contain more than 10,000 publications linked to Ireland, its language and Diaspora, along with recorded material and newspapers and magazines from Ireland.
The library collection has been collated through a combined effort by the Irish Government and libraries and publishing houses in Ireland, the LIC confirmed this week, as well as through donations from the private collections of two recently deceased “friends” of the charity.
The books have already been transported to the LIC free of charge by An Post.
Upon hearing the news, Professor Marianne Elliott, Director of The Institute of Irish Studies at the University of Liverpool, said: “The opening of the new library at the London Irish Centre is another token of its huge contribution
to the Irish community, Irish arts and culture in London.”
She added: “It will be a major resource and we at the Institute in Liverpool wish it every success in this major new development.”
The multipurpose venue is to include a new Reading Room and a Learning Centre, while a community lounge will be created to provide visitors with “enhanced drop-in spaces”, the LIC confirms.
More broadly, the organisation hopes the plans will enable them to support a higher numbers of visitors to the venue in Camden Square in north London.
Mary Allen, former Trustee of the LIC and recipient of this year’s Irish Presidential Distinguished Service Award, added: “I am delighted that the London Irish community will once again be able to enjoy the London Irish Centre’s Kennedy Hall.
"The Hall was built by generations of Irish in London and it is only fitting that in the Centre’s 60th year, it will come back to life for the Irish community.”